And now an atheist college

So how will this be different from regular colleges?

Famed atheist Richard Dawkins will be among a group of British academic elites who will launch a new college that will rival top British universities like Oxford.

The New College of the Humanities in central London will offer degrees in English, philosophy, history, economics and law starting from fall 2012.

The private college is founded by 14 professors. Richard Dawkins, author of the bestseller The God Delusion, will teach evolutionary biology and a required course on science literacy.

Other academics include historians Sir David Cannadine and Niall Ferguson, former Oxford professor of poetry Sir Christopher Ricks and psychologist Steven Pinker.

AC Grayling, a well-known British humanist and atheist, will serve as the college’s first master. He is the author of The Good Book: The Humanist Bible, a manifesto for secular humanists that was published in March 2011.

“Our priorities at the college will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment,” said Grayling.

“Our students will be challenged to develop as skilled, informed and reflective thinkers, and will receive an education to match that aspiration.”

Creators of the new institution say it offers a “new concept” in university education.

Students at New College will take core courses in three areas: Science Literacy, Logic and Critical Thinking, and Applied Ethics. In addition to receiving an undergraduate degree in their area of study, students will be granted a Diploma of New College.

via Atheist Richard Dawkins Helps Launch New Humanities College in London, Christian News.

It appears from the website that the college will be affiliated with the University of London.  I don’t see an atheist version of a statement of faith or any reference to an ideological agenda.  But check out the faculty.  Peter Singer will teach the Applied Ethics course!   The faculty is exceedingly thin–one literature professor and they will offer an English major?  I don’t see how they could pass an American accreditation visit, let alone “rival” Oxford, which, while currently hospitable to atheists, at least has a bigger view of the humanities than is evident here.  An atheist version of the humanities would leave out just about every great writer, artist, and thinker.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pingback: And now an atheist college | AccreditationAccreditation

  • Pingback: And now an atheist college | AccreditationAccreditation

  • Jonathan

    They already have all the leading universities. I don’t get it.

  • Jonathan

    They already have all the leading universities. I don’t get it.

  • MissionMobilizer

    If I didn’t know this was a serious article, I would be inclined to think it was satirical humor, such as I might find on The Onion.

  • MissionMobilizer

    If I didn’t know this was a serious article, I would be inclined to think it was satirical humor, such as I might find on The Onion.

  • Jeremy

    “I don’t see an atheist version of a statement of faith”

    Atheism and agnosticism are negative beliefs — it would be things one doesn’t believe in, so it’d be impossible to have a statement of faith, unless you were to write every god you didn’t believe in. If that were the case, even fundamentalists would agree 99.99% with the statement of faith. A Muslim fundamentalist would agree with “I don’t believe in the God Jesus, Yahweh, Vishnu, Zeus, Jupiter, …”. I would only be with the statement “I don’t believe in Allah” that he would have any difference with the statement of faith.

  • Jeremy

    “I don’t see an atheist version of a statement of faith”

    Atheism and agnosticism are negative beliefs — it would be things one doesn’t believe in, so it’d be impossible to have a statement of faith, unless you were to write every god you didn’t believe in. If that were the case, even fundamentalists would agree 99.99% with the statement of faith. A Muslim fundamentalist would agree with “I don’t believe in the God Jesus, Yahweh, Vishnu, Zeus, Jupiter, …”. I would only be with the statement “I don’t believe in Allah” that he would have any difference with the statement of faith.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Lessee…..so instead of a real literature department, they’ll have Marx, Engels, Schicklgruber, and Sartre?

    Sign me up! Not.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Lessee…..so instead of a real literature department, they’ll have Marx, Engels, Schicklgruber, and Sartre?

    Sign me up! Not.

  • Steve

    We can only hope Singer will be leaving Princeton permanently for this position. My doubt is that he won’t.

    As for the notion that atheism is a negative belief, and thus can only be defined by what it is not, I’d say that the atheists who signed the Humanist Manifestos (all three of them through the years) would have to disagree. They all clearly believe (or believed) in something, and reveal themselves to be as much a faith group as most other faiths, even with adherence to their own sorts of “creeds.”

  • Steve

    We can only hope Singer will be leaving Princeton permanently for this position. My doubt is that he won’t.

    As for the notion that atheism is a negative belief, and thus can only be defined by what it is not, I’d say that the atheists who signed the Humanist Manifestos (all three of them through the years) would have to disagree. They all clearly believe (or believed) in something, and reveal themselves to be as much a faith group as most other faiths, even with adherence to their own sorts of “creeds.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    There are things they could rival oxford in, education isn’t one. But perhaps delusions of grander, arrogance, hubris, I could come up with a list. Dawkins is delusional.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    There are things they could rival oxford in, education isn’t one. But perhaps delusions of grander, arrogance, hubris, I could come up with a list. Dawkins is delusional.

  • Cincinnatus

    Not any more strange than a non-academic lawyer starting an obnoxiously Christian college with a literature department composed of a single professor, amirite?
    ;-)

  • Cincinnatus

    Not any more strange than a non-academic lawyer starting an obnoxiously Christian college with a literature department composed of a single professor, amirite?
    ;-)

  • http://takethestand.net Andrew DeLoach

    I’m sure you’ve also heard about the new degree in “Secular Studies” being offered at Pitzer College here in southern California. Sounds equally ridiculous. Pitzer is right down the street from the Claremont School of Theology (historically tied to the Methodists), which now offers Jewish and Islamic education as well. So maybe it’s in the waters.
    Anyhow, your former student, Pr. Joel Shaltanis, and I will be talking about both of these on our next podcast. Since the atheists and secularists take themselves too seriously, it’s our job to take them less seriously, so it should be fun!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704904604576333454244079630.html

  • http://takethestand.net Andrew DeLoach

    I’m sure you’ve also heard about the new degree in “Secular Studies” being offered at Pitzer College here in southern California. Sounds equally ridiculous. Pitzer is right down the street from the Claremont School of Theology (historically tied to the Methodists), which now offers Jewish and Islamic education as well. So maybe it’s in the waters.
    Anyhow, your former student, Pr. Joel Shaltanis, and I will be talking about both of these on our next podcast. Since the atheists and secularists take themselves too seriously, it’s our job to take them less seriously, so it should be fun!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704904604576333454244079630.html

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I don’t see how they could pass an American accreditation visit”

    Where there is the will, there is a way. Their buddies (academic good ol’ boys) will make sure they not only get accredited, but also lauded.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I don’t see how they could pass an American accreditation visit”

    Where there is the will, there is a way. Their buddies (academic good ol’ boys) will make sure they not only get accredited, but also lauded.

  • Bart

    Kinda reminds me of the N.I.C.E.

  • Bart

    Kinda reminds me of the N.I.C.E.

  • DonS

    At least they’re up front about it. Unlike most of our other institutions of higher learning.

  • DonS

    At least they’re up front about it. Unlike most of our other institutions of higher learning.

  • Jeremy

    @Steve

    I completely agree that humanism is a positive belief, and is an ethics system. Evolution is also a positive belief. Until the 19th century, no agnostics or atheists believed in evolution. However, humanism is not equal to atheism.

  • Jeremy

    @Steve

    I completely agree that humanism is a positive belief, and is an ethics system. Evolution is also a positive belief. Until the 19th century, no agnostics or atheists believed in evolution. However, humanism is not equal to atheism.

  • Steve

    @Jeremy

    But many of those humanists (not all) were atheists, were they not? So at least those atheists–and I would guess many more as well–hold to some positive beliefs. You’re right that the two aren’t equal (as many many Unitarian Universalists are also in this humanist camp), but neither are they mutually exclusive.

    My comments weren’t meant to knock atheists, just to make clear that they indeed do believe in something. “There is no God” or “Religions are false” seem to be negative beliefs, as you say, but they are affirmations, and can with a few semantic jumps be made to be clearly positive: “Reason is supreme” or “We are in charge of our fates and need no outside help” etc. etc.

  • Steve

    @Jeremy

    But many of those humanists (not all) were atheists, were they not? So at least those atheists–and I would guess many more as well–hold to some positive beliefs. You’re right that the two aren’t equal (as many many Unitarian Universalists are also in this humanist camp), but neither are they mutually exclusive.

    My comments weren’t meant to knock atheists, just to make clear that they indeed do believe in something. “There is no God” or “Religions are false” seem to be negative beliefs, as you say, but they are affirmations, and can with a few semantic jumps be made to be clearly positive: “Reason is supreme” or “We are in charge of our fates and need no outside help” etc. etc.

  • Louis

    Jeremy @ 3 – actually, while atheism is an absolutist statement (and therefore a negative belief), agnosticism plays in the field of doubt and uncertainty. Thus you have positive belief on the one hand (such as Christianity), negative belief on the other (atheism only), and agnosticism in the middle, with various oscillations between…

    Therefore, though, because belief requires faith, atheism is self-contradictory..

  • Louis

    Jeremy @ 3 – actually, while atheism is an absolutist statement (and therefore a negative belief), agnosticism plays in the field of doubt and uncertainty. Thus you have positive belief on the one hand (such as Christianity), negative belief on the other (atheism only), and agnosticism in the middle, with various oscillations between…

    Therefore, though, because belief requires faith, atheism is self-contradictory..

  • The Jones

    Dr. Veith,

    While I agree with most of your critiques, I kind of remember PHC only having one journalism professor, while still offering a full journalism major. And didn’t we want to rival Harvard? I don’t know if your literature professor/English major critique was exactly on point. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • The Jones

    Dr. Veith,

    While I agree with most of your critiques, I kind of remember PHC only having one journalism professor, while still offering a full journalism major. And didn’t we want to rival Harvard? I don’t know if your literature professor/English major critique was exactly on point. Correct me if I’m wrong.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X